I attended SIBOS 2019 earlier this year and suffice it to say, they justified their claim as the ‘premier financial services event in the world’.
More than 12,000 people were in attendance from all over the banking ecosystem, with more than enough content – 400 different sessions – to keep everyone engaged for the four days.
There were a few famous speakers: physicist Brian Cox connected elements of Einstein’s theory of relativity to trust in banking, which was fascinating. And Dame Kelly Holmes discussed challenges around success and its effect on mental health.
But for the most part, it was an event by bankers, for bankers. A few months on, I’m still reflecting on some of the discussions that I was part of and in this blog post, I’m going to share some of those unifying themes.
- Data – the new currency
Our increasingly digitized world means traditional banking models need to change, which was explored at length over the four days.
Banks’ classic value proposition – ‘trust me with the things you value, and I will keep them safe’ –needs to include a new currency… data.
In an age where we might be being watched at any time and everything we do is being logged somewhere, banks need to reshape their view of trust in this post-privacy world.
Author and former chief scientist at Amazon, Andreas Weigend, spoke almost philosophically about this. He suggested banks could use their trusted position in society to help their customers ensure their data is being used in the right ways.
However, the idea of the ‘trustworthy bank’ is not one shared by all of society.
- Banks’ lost generation
One presenter spoke to the fact that banks haven’t managed to transmit their traditionally trusted reputation to younger generations, such as Generation Z. These future customers grew up in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis and as such, don’t possess that same confidence in financial institutions that their parents do.
This has made them more open to newer, more experimental forms of banking such as challenger fintech start-ups, open banks and even social media.
So, traditional banks not only need to regain this generations’ trust but begin appealing to them with the level of service they have become accustomed to. And that largely comes down to digital transformation.
- Finding the digital model
The general feeling at the event was that digitization is being confused by the industry. A lot of banks assume digitizing means doing the same things they’ve always done, but through digital channels.
One speaker pointed out that we could learn from the mistakes made by the music industry when it started distributing music as mp3. They thought they could digitize an element of their industry and keep the rest the same, but it resulted in the birth of peer-to-peer services which had detrimental consequences for the industry.
Technology allows people to consume things differently – It took years for the music industry to realize the right digital model was streaming subscription services, such as Spotify. Likewise, banks need to figure out what digital model is going to enable and support the different ways people will want to bank in the future.
And that means being prepared to rethink everything they know about banking.
- Banks as a platform
One idea being floated that I found interesting was the idea that banks can act as a platform, such as Amazon or Facebook.
Banks have always acted like platforms – linking people depositing money with people who want to borrow it. So, how do banks translate that into the digital world and apply the concept of a platform business to something different, such as data or ID?
One example is a bank servicing several small and medium-sized businesses where it holds a lot of information about those businesses, such as their creditworthiness. Maybe it can leverage its reputation as a trusted bank to vouch for them, or even introduce them to other businesses.
By linking these together, a community can become a marketplace for potential buyers and sellers, with the bank in the middle providing financial support.
If the banking industry manages to do things right with their digital transformation and vendors, this may be one possible bright future for them.
The People and technology relationship
This year’s SIBOS was one of the most informative events I have ever experienced in my career.
Over the four-days, while many topics were covered, running through all of them was the belief that it ultimately came down to using technology to empower people.
The CEO of Lloyds Bank made a powerful point when he said that we should automate the ordinary to allow our people to accomplish the extraordinary.
The idea of technology being a tool to free employees from mundane tasks to do more engaging, empathetic and creative work, is a fundamental belief of Fujitsu’s.
That’s why we not only help our partners in their digital transformation efforts through knowledge of emerging technologies, but address company cultures to make them more agile and collaborative.